U.N. Trade Barrier


This August marks the 10th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, an incursion followed quickly by an international embargo against the invader. One war (and several mini-wars) later, the United Nations' sanctions are still in effect. Despite that, Saddam Hussein shows no sign of opening his country to full-fledged weapons inspection, and the Iraqi people show no signs of rising en masse against his dictatorship.

This does not, however, mean that the sanctions have had no effect. According to a UNICEF study released last year, Iraq's infant mortality rate, once among the world's lowest, has more than doubled since 1990. Hunger and disease are rampant. UNICEF reports that the embargo has killed about half a million Iraqi children under the age of 5.

Food and medicine are supposedly exempt from the embargo, but, as The Economist notes, "without export earnings, Iraq could not pay for imports, so the gesture was meaningless." An oil-for-food program, instituted to fix this problem, has been rendered next to useless by its cumbersome bureaucracy. As a result, Iraq's water is dirty, its electrical system is crippled, and its economy has effectively collapsed; crime is high, and jobs are scarce.

A series of officials have resigned from the UN's humanitarian assistance program in Iraq, arguing that the sanctions are killing innocent civilians and the "assistance" is doing little to help them. Such protests have not prompted any changes. In other words, Iraqi civilians are dying for the crimes of their government, while the United States continues to push for the harshest policies possible.